by NEVIL GIBSON
All romance films need an element of fantasy, if only to sweeten the realities of everyday life.
But too much fantasy can undermine the premise of a good story.
The best can be huge hits, particularly with younger audiences, as the recent Twilight, Hunger Games and Divergent series demonstrate.
But leaving aside vampires, dystopian futures and weird science, the fantasy elements that have the most potential for romance often involve some sort of time travel, or ghosts from the past or future.
An excellent example is the TV series Outlander, in which the same heroine features in two time-zone romances set several centuries apart.
It has done for tourism in Scotland what the Hobbits and Middle-Earth have done for New Zealand.
Some of the best examples come from the 1990s, when the genre was last at its peak before its recent revival with True Blood and Twilight.
Remember Mel Gibson in his first romantic role as the jet pilot who couldn’t commit and then underwent a cryogenics experiment when his would-be partner died?
That was called Forever Young (1985) and is the benchmark for other more recent examples such
as The Case of Benjamin Button (2008), About Time (2013) and Winter’s Tale (2014).
The latest to stretch the emotions and intelligence is The Age of Adaline (Lionsgate), in which the heroine, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively), is wise well beyond her years.
That’s because she was born early in the 20th century but, while driving in snow, has a crash in which she is in danger of drowning.
She is miraculously hit by a thunderbolt that saves her life but literally stops her body clock.
She will forever remain a young 29 in the prime of life for romantic engagements.
Unfortunately, immortality has its disadvantages, such as her contemporaries ageing around her
and eventually dying.
As a result, she is forced into a life of solitude, rejecting emotional relationships and changing
her identity from time to time to protect her secret.
The idea is preposterous, but the intrigue is how she copes when men naturally make their advances. She hasn’t wasted her life, either: as a librarian, she has read widely and studied many
languages, including Braille.
But one would-be suitor (Michiel Huisman), who donates a large book collection to the library
where she works, proves persistent.
He is not only eligible, but also rich from selling a startup business (the San Francisco setting is near Silicon Valley).
Inevitably, they share a lot of interests and their romantic engagements lift the story well out
of the young adult category.
The appeal to an older audience intensifies with the next plot twist, where the couple join his
parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) in the country for a weekend.
Here, Adaline’s past catches up with her and she can longer maintain the life she is used to.
The casting of the little-seen Lively (only 27 and best known from the Gossip Girl series) makes
it easier to accept the premise that this could happen to anyone.
Rating: TBA;110 minutes.
by NEVIL GIBSON